Friday 2 October 2015

What Really Works - A Cleanliness 'Abhiyaan' or Self-driven Cleanliness?

Cleanliness's first birthday season has arrived. One year ago when Mother India gave birth to its newest baby with a sacred mission - "Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan", dreams of a messiah mission refuelled our dying hopes to tidy up our literally grim background with delight. We joined hands together crossing all boundaries of caste, religion or creed, to unite for our common birth right - hygiene. The idea was to explain the lessons of meticulousness and etiquettes to friends, neighbours, subordinates, children. Well, actually to anyone but 'me'.
Within days of inaugurating the cleanliness drive by Mr. PM, offices, schools, institutes and homes emerged on streets with a broom stick in hand to sweep off dirt under one's feet, so what if it was tossed off in the neighbour's garden? Women association and ladies club tightened saree-pallu around their waist posing for epic photographs in groups displaying their commitment to keep their premises clean, least caring that back at home when they are off their saree and make-up, some would not even think twice before throwing away kitchen junk out of their window to add up to the already piled up garbage hoarded on public street? It was amusing to find employees cleaning up dump of office files as if it was an year end appraisal target which if not done before midnight of the D-day, would lose its significance by next morning. By the end of few hours, or few weeks for some truly sincere ones, the cleanliness love affair dissipated beneath routine habits which obviously had little concern for keeping premises clean.
In fact, the most serious ones emerging in the entire cleaning business were little children who wrote essays, made collages and spoke extempore on the topic, educating the society around. Ironically, they were also the ones who knew least about some 'policy driven mission' and yet knew most about the simple habit of cleanliness. While the elders had to be forced to go through an instruction manual pointing 'Do's and Don'ts' of keeping clean, focused around a government directive, the little ones effortlessly took care to stick to a hygiene rule-book they had never even read about. My four year old child held something tight in her hand for five jolly good hours while on a trip to Munnar until she spotted a dustbin and wanted us to stop the car. When asked why, she said she wanted to throw the toffee wrapper in the bin. Isn't it appalling to know why when a four year old can understand, appreciate and follow the simplicity of a good habit inculcated, a grown-up adult must need a mission or a drive to get reminded of the same?
The question, however is, even if the noble government attempts to play a motivating Uncle Sam, how far will a 'drive' change the habits of self-driven people who have in all these years adopted shameless display of untidiness as their way of life? Is it a wonderment any more to spot the front door of a car speeding ahead suddenly fling open, driver's head pop out of it like an action movie thriller sequence and the hero shoot a file of gargled red tobacco from his mouth in place of bullets, sometime hitting and sometimes missing the person passing by on a two wheeler? A country in which urinating in open streets in full public galore considered a much healthier option to holding it back for a couple of minutes until reaching a public utility? Blowing nose or coughing without putting hands on mouth in railways, metros and buses, quite often right on the face of the nearest neighbor sitting by, unapologetically done by even the most educated and well-employed of citizens? Littering parks with eatables, spitting at tourist places, leaving filth behind in hotels and restaurants and worst still, not caring to flush out one's own shitty remains in public toilets are few common examples from daily life. We insist cleanliness is godliness but do we really care to spare our beloved God's abode in temples from filth either?
How strange is it to know when these highly qualified individuals cross the boundary of their motherland to step in some part of America, Europe or Australia, they adopt a different avatar altogether by suddenly becoming well-mannered, sophisticated gentlemen and ladies, following rules of the land like primary school babies? Perhaps they know that pretending to be naïve in a foreign land will either have them penalized or get them behind bars, even to the extent of being shown a return visa with no-thanks slip. Exactly opposite of what happens in our dear country where despite being caught and frowned upon, one can easily get away unabashedly.
If one wants to witness a live case study of our callousness towards tidiness, consider taking one train journey on a general seat. Why just general, consider sleeper or any of the AC tiers only to find that the legendary Indian Railways is the most vulnerable victim of our heartlessness. While sixty plus is to four already an alarmingly low number of toilets provided by the, its pathetic usage by people renders it distressingly unhygienic. Who cares about reading the instruction board put in toilets, when shit and quit is the rule of the rail set by passengers themselves? Using latrines when the train is at halt is obviously far fetched and much difficult instruction to follow, let alone scribbling names on walls, tearing off seat's leather even sticking chewing-gums on ceilings or fans?
So while PM and his army do commendable work in constructing multitudes of toilets, cleaning river Ganga and sanctioning crores of money for furtherance of the cleanliness cause, little is anticipated to change unless people are ready to change themselves. Drives and dialogues get delivered only with discipline. Penalty or incentive may catalyse the need to stay well behaved, it is however either the habit that one inculcates or the concern for fellow community members around that makes the big difference.
Those who keep dogs as pets would know that with proper and timely training, even an animal with lesser white matter in the brain follows etiquette of tidiness without much fuss. Why then the ones with highest of intellect need to be driven by a top-down rule-book approach and why not concern and care for each other's right to clean space be the driving force? 'Tis time we think!

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